Areas of Graduate Study

Areas of interest in psychology

Psychology is a vast discipline and an undergraduate degree in psychology provides a solid foundation for specialization in graduate school. It is important for prospective students to identify particular areas of interest and then search for programs that have faculty members actively engaged in those areas, as they will be the ones to guide and shape your graduate education. Graduate programs in psychology include the following specialities:

  • Behavior analysis and therapy
  • Behavioral medicine
  • Behavioral neuroscience
  • Clinical psychology
  • Cognitive psychology
  • Community psychology
  • Counseling psychology
  • Developmental psychology
  • Educational psychology
  • Experimental psychology
  • Forensic psychology
  • Health psychology
  • Industrial/organizational psychology
  • Marriage and family therapy
  • Neuropsychology
  • Psychiatry (medical school)
  • Rehabilitation
  • School psychology
  • Sensation and perception
  • Social psychology
  • Social work (clinical)
  • Sports psychology

APA Divisions explains more about these programs.

Considerations in selecting a school

There are a wide variety of considerations to consider when choosing a graduate program.

Type of program

Doctoral programs are often more competitive than master's programs, clinical programs are more competitive than other types of programs, and Ph.D. programs are more competitive than Psy.D. programs. When selecting programs, it is strategic to choose a variety of doctoral and master's programs to increase the chances of being accepted. If you are absolutely sure you want to get a Ph.D. but are not accepted into a program, think about getting a Masters and then reapplying.

Research interests

When searching for programs, especially doctoral programs, it is important to find departments that have faculty members currently engaged in research within the areas  you are interested in studying. Finding a professor who is a good match can be done by reading articles in possible areas of interest and talking with other faculty who might know individuals in the field. Once a faculty member is identified, familiarize yourself with their work by reading every article and books they have written.

Clinical opportunities

If your interests are applied in nature, it is important to find a faculty mentor who is working within your area of interest. You will want to find out a faculty member who is practicing within the clinic you would like to work in.

Theoretical orientations

It is important to determine the theoretical orientation of the graduate program you are interested in applying to in order to make sure it is a good fit for both you and the program Five common orientations include:

  •  Psychodynamic/psychoanalytic
  • Applied behavioral analysis/radical behavioral
  • Family systems/systems
  • Existential/phenomenological/humanistic
  • Cognitive/cognitive-behavioral

Financial aid

Some types of common aid include tuition waivers, assistantships, assistantship and waiver, and graduate fellowships in addition to student loans. It is also important to know what duties would be expected of you by receiving these certain types of aid (e.g., teaching, research, etc.). Some schools require additional applications to be considered for different forms of financial aid so make sure you have the proper paperwork filled out when you apply.

Resources for researching graduate programs

Tips for success

  • Research programs and professors to find the right fit and apply to a wide variety of master's and doctoratal programs.
  • Talk with current professors about your goals, and they may be able to direct you to certain professors or graduate programs that are a good match.
  • Make contact with potential professors to request more information about their current work and inquire if they will be taking graduate students in the upcoming year.
  • Attend professional conferences to meet faculty working in particular areas of interest.